When was the last time you played Charades? Participants perform actions – oftentimes incorporating distinct hand gestures – to act out a word or phrase on a card. No speaking is allowed, but body language is permitted. Luckily, hand gestures communicate a wealth of information – from additional description of a scene to emphasis on a particular tone. For example, in the following clip from a Breaking Bad episode, the main character, Walter White, utilizes a multitude of hand gestures to convey his opinions.

And in public speaking arenas, they affect your presentations and the responses of audience members.

Recalling points

Attaching a phrase or section of your speech to specific hand gestures can aid in the creation of memories related to your content. Through presentation rehearsal, a presenter should practice not only remembering the words they are going to say, but also the way with which they will deliver those words. For example, if there are certain parts of your message that you want to emphasize, insert choppy movements into your body language. In the video clip above, Walter White uses his arms forcefully – thus helping himself and his listeners retain the words said. How many times do you believe you should run through your talk? 7-12 times is typically the sweet spot – but it wouldn’t hurt to practice more.

Engaging audiences

Maintaining the same tone and pitch in your voice has the same effect as restricting your use of hand gestures. According to recent research conducted on TED Talks, the most beloved speakers implemented twice as many hand gestures as the least-liked speakers. Just as fluctuating tone and pitch captures the audience’s attention, adding a variety of hand gestures keeps others tuned into your talk. In fact, a hand gesture can communicate more to another person than a physical interaction with an object.

The Surprising Impact of Hand Gestures in Public Speaking-image

Appearing intelligent

In infancy, the use of hand gestures is correlated to higher intelligence. Even into adulthood, hand gestures exude a fair amount of confidence and control. For example, in a public speaking situation, a presenter might place their palms in a downward position to establish authority over an audience – demonstrating their poise and polished approach.

If you are usually uncomfortable onstage, consider rehearsing your hand gestures in conjunction with your content before any public speaking gig. And for more tips and tricks to improving your presentation delivery, read the resources below:

The Guide to Hand Gestures Around the World

What Presenters Need to Know About Eye Movement

What Your Likability Quotient Means for Your Presentations

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